Football: Fowler takes blame for flop: England and Scotland youngsters fail to live up to expectations

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(First Edition)

ROBBIE FOWLER summed up the frustration of his England Under-21 colleagues after Dave Sexton's team were held to a goalless draw by Portugal in the European Championship at Filbert Street on Tuesday night. The Liverpool striker had been keen to add to his five goals from three Premiership appearances this season.

Although Fowler found the net twice in the Group Six match, both efforts were disallowed, the first because Jamie Redknapp had taken a free-kick too quickly and the second after Fowler was wrongly flagged offside. But England failed to make anything of an extra-man advantage for the last half hour after the Portuguese central defender Litos was dismissed for a professional foul on Leicester's Julian Joachim.

'I was just very disappointed with my performance,' Fowler said. 'I did nothing to impress Terry Venables at all. On the bright side, we didn't lose. We've only been together a couple of days and hopefully it will click after a few more games.'

Certainly the disjointed performance did little to confirm Sexton's pre-match assertion that the squad was as good as any previously available at this level. And the Oldham goalkeeper, Paul Gerrard, was grateful to his left-hand post for sending Bambo's spectacular overhead kick across the face of goal rather than into it.

Sexton said: 'After the sending off our full-backs got a lot of the ball but there wasn't the movement to give them any passing options. They could only cross it in and we haven't got big men up front to aim at.'

Sexton did find some encouraging aspects in the display. 'I thought David Unsworth fitted in well on his debut, while Sol Campbell was pretty steady and as cool as he always is.' he said.

'I also thought Jamie Redknapp had a good game. He doesn't play in the holding role for Liverpool because they've got Jan Molby to do that but I think he will evolve into the player who will knock it about from the middle.

'The first game in any qualifying group always seems to be a struggle. You've got to remember we had a new group of players and we've still got a lot of things to work on. But we can get better and I'm sure we will.'